They’re converting chicken excrement into energy,
all that phosphorous, light-bearer, giver of life—
one percent of all our body weight, no wonder
you shimmer when the air touches your flesh.
You sleep for a dozen days, a dozen more,
wake in my arms under winter’s morning star.
In Hamburg, Germany, in 1699, an alchemist
turned evaporated piss into this cold fire
while looking for the philosopher’s stone:
all our achievements born in the body, inspired
by the same hunger to turn lead to gold.
This is the great work. This has been going on
since God told Adam about the stone
but would not let him touch it, the story goes,
and no legend has ever made more sense
as an explanation of the human condition.
Each element some blend of hot, cold,
wet, dry. Rearrange the balance
and everything changes. Something new
is born. Maybe even gold. We need time, desire,
an understanding of how one shape
attaches to the next. Too much of anything
kills what it touches, creates water where no fish swim,
surface abloom above all that darkness.
How have we ended up here? One accident
after another, that’s how. Imagine
striking that first match—
the scratch, the hiss, the sudden flame
you hoped for. I have never felt so lonely.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.
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